FAQ -- Back to School Supplies

The First Three Weeks

School is just around the corner, and I know you ask, “What does my child need for school?” Like any school, students need to perform; to perform effectively, they need proper supplies and equipment. But don’t fret, the first trimester, there is very little required, and at the end of this document, I will include links for some suggests of individual items. In the first three weeks, supplies are minimal, hiking gear, a knife, a three-ring-notebook with paper and dividers, wooden #2 HB pencils, two journals, and a couple of books to read for pleasure.

We will add more four more journals starting in the third week as well as some art supplies. These can be purchased as we go. For kids that are living at the school, supplies can be drop-shipped here. The kids get excited to get a package even it is just some journals and some color pencils. I have given some details and links below.

Hiking Gear

On the first day of school, they should have their essential hiking gear. They will need work/hiking boots, daypack, poncho, tarp, water bottle, paracord, andclothing layers, including a heavy jacket. Kids that are camping should have three warm wool blankets or a sleeping bag. I prefer blankets because they retain their warmth if damp and are much easier to launder and dry as the need arises.


If your child has been to camp, they already have much of the tools we use in our outdoor “classroom,” work gloves, a sharp locking blade knife, an orienteering compass, a ferrocerium rod.

The teens need either a calculator that will do trig functions or a smartphone with a calculator app. Don’t run out a buy a smartphone, but we access the university libraries and other resources; if they have one, bring it. We use it as a tool, not for entertainment. Their time on electronic devices is minimal, little more than a half-hour per day.


When kids in other schools are getting expelled for getting caught having a knife, our students must have one each day. It teaches hand skills and respect. In short, maybe a folding knife with a locking blade or fixed blade with a sheath, with a blade five-inch or shorter, of quality steel. More information can be found on our blog page Kids and Knives

Your child will use a compass to learn land navigation, orienteering, geometry, and trigonometry. Their compass will be in use for boots on the ground survival skills through engineering; it will be in use daily. We prefer the Suunto® MC2 Navigator; it is not a toy but a tool and should be treated as such.

He is one vendor we use Foresty Suppliers Ferrocerium Rod This is another Each student learns to make a fire quickly and safely with no more than a spark or the friction of wood rubbing against each other. If your child is in one of our camping formats, they will be cooking over a fire for each meal; that fire must be made without a match or lighter. They will become a master using the ferrocerium rod to make fire. I suggest a five-inch or longer rod of half-inch in diameter with the amount of use it will get. Here is one link

“Classroom” Supplies for Writing and Drawing

For the “classroom” consumables, students will need five journals, a sketch pad, #2 HB pencils, an assortment of color pencils, an erasure, and a three-ring-binder. No pencils sharpener is required. They will use their knife. Subject Journals NOLI students demonstrate their work through a series of journals for each subject and interest, not with a transcript. Therefore, they will need at least six journals for the year as follows:

  • Nature and Natural Science
  • Literature/Lexicon
  • Math/Physical Science
  • Chores/Kinship
  • Scripture
  • Project journals and their interest grow and deepen

We like to sketch on our notebook covers and what tends to work best is heavy blank Card Stock Covers. With the abuse of hiking sewn in bindings will protect the work and stands up to field conditions. Avoid the spiral-bound books because the pages can rub against each other, smear your pencil work, and tear-free pages. It should contain 100 sheets or more blank pages, roughly 5” x 8”. In time reinforcing the binding with gaffer’s tape may be necessary. The following are good choices.




At NOLI, sketching is just as important as the written word. At least 25% of the students’ day is spent drawing and 25% writing.

Prismacolor Col-erase Non-photo Blue Pencil This is the essential tool for sketching in layout lines. Use it lightly, and you do not even need to erase it.

The classic yellow Ticonderoga wooden Graphite pencil with #2 HB lead is our foundation tool.

In a few months, your student might be ready to add the following:

2-mm Koh-i-Noor Technigraphic Lead Holder or equivalent get 3 6H, 4H, 2H, 2B lead

More suggestions for the kids with a focus in art can be found at Jack Laws website


Reading has a spiral up effect; if they read, they get better at reading; the more they get better at reading, the more they will want to read. Their reading will grow until they have a hunger for reading. Our reading program is based on this notion.

Each student reads from a book for pleasure in class and in the evenings. As kids finish a book, they are eager to start a new one. For kids living on site, it is cool for them to get books in the mail from their folks. Reading is how our students learn not only to read but to write; it builds their lexicon. We do not give the students vocabulary lists to memorize, but their books should raise that bar naturally. The books should be at a level that they are learning roughly three new words a day. The books also reinforce the academic skills they are studying. It is a book of their choice, something they have an interest, but not textbook or handbook like, but fiction, historical, biographies, or autobiographies.

To encourage a student interested in hunting, they might want to read about non-fiction books by or about Saxton Pope, Arthur Leopold, Arthur Young, Ishi, or Teddy Roosevelt. Kids into firearms may want to read about Jon Browning or his son John Browning, or Samual Colt. Trapping or tracking, Ernest Thompon Seton, Joe Meek, Jedediah Smith, or Kit Carson. Engineering George Westinghouse. If your student is interested in US History, those same books will feed that hunger. Many fiction writers such as Mark Twain, Bret Hart, and Jane Gray, our students love. Many new readers or non-readers started reading Gary Paulsen’s books because all our students learn bushcraft like his character.
Required Books We only require two books for all students, and generally.

Each student requires:

  • The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills * Daniel Coyle
  • The New King James Bible

Optional for all students

Mammal Tracks & Sign: A Guide to North American Species Mark Elbroch

Required Books for teens also include:

  • The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How by Daniel Coyle
  • The Art of Manliness presents Guide to Being a Gentleman by Brett and Kate McKay.

As the Weeks Progress

As the students progress, they get a better idea of what they want to focus on and may require more books. A partial list from our education library found at blog page Mentor Resources – Reading List

Other books we use in nature journaling can also be found at Jack’s website

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose."
—Dr. Seuss
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
—Nelson Mandela